Legal Implications Surrounding the Bouncer Case

In a recent development from Allentown, a former bouncer at East Sider’s bar, William Clifton Baker, has been charged with voluntary manslaughter for allegedly causing the death of a patron, Thong Pham, almost four years ago. Baker, who turned himself into the authorities, also faces charges of aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter, and simple assault1.

The Incident:

According to Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin, on September 29, 2019, Baker allegedly punched Pham once in the face after ejecting him from East Sider’s. This punch led Pham to fall, subsequently hitting his head on the ground and suffering a traumatic brain injury1. Tragically, Pham never regained consciousness and passed away on December 29, 2021, from complications resulting from the injury1. The Montgomery County Coroner's Office ruled the death a homicide1.

Legal Considerations:

It is interesting to consider the legal implications surrounding this case. The charges shed light on the fine line between intent and consequence in criminal law.

District Attorney Martin noted that the investigation showed Baker "did not have a specific intent to kill Pham and that the defendant did not strike Pham with legal malice”1. Instead, Martin deemed that Baker acted in a “reckless or grossly negligent manner”1.

This differentiation is pivotal in legal discourse. In the seminal case of People v. Knoller (2007) 41 Cal.4th 139, the California Supreme Court provided clarity regarding the difference between implied malice (second-degree murder) and criminal negligence (involuntary manslaughter). In this case, the court decided that for a defendant to act with implied malice, they must have an actual appreciation of the risk involved, not just a reckless disregard for human life2.

Using this as a benchmark, the Allentown incident brings into question: Did Baker truly appreciate the potential deadly consequences of his actions, or was he simply acting recklessly? The differentiation, while seemingly minute, holds significant implications for the nature and severity of the charges faced.

Defense Stance:

Baker's defense attorney, Joshua Karoly, asserted that Baker committed no crime, expressing confidence that this stance would be vindicated in court1. Defense arguments in such cases often hinge on the belief that the defendant's actions were not criminal but were unforeseen consequences of an otherwise reasonable action, especially in the heat of a moment.

Furthermore, it’s essential to understand the nuances of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. As a hypothetical, in Commonwealth v. Malone (1946), 47 A.2d 445, two teenagers were playing with a revolver, with one pointing it at the other, fully aware of a loaded chamber but thinking it would not fire. The gun discharged, killing the other teenager. The court held that such behavior was a manifestation of a wicked disposition and was sufficient to constitute malice and therefore, murder3. The consideration in such cases is the degree of recklessness and malice.

Moving Forward:

As the preliminary hearing approaches on August 23, the Allentown case offers another significant addition to discussions on intent, negligence, and the consequences of split-second decisions in the legal domain1.


  1. Addy, J. (2023, August 3). Ex-bouncer charged with manslaughter almost 4 years after allegedly punching patron. 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
  2. People v. Knoller (2007) 41 Cal.4th 139.
  3. Commonwealth v. Malone (1946), 47 A.2d 445.


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